With visa-free access to 85% of the world, the Japanese passport is now the world’s most powerful. Could we soon see a time where some passports reach 100%?
The Japanese can visit no less than 191 out of 226 countries and territories, according to the Henley & Partners Passport Index, making their passport the world’s most mobile. Second and third on the same ranking, respectively, are the Singaporeans and South Koreans, together forming a historic all-Asian podium.
Recent developments in global travel-freedom – across the board – are nothing short of remarkable; the Index offers figures dating back to 2006 showing that, fewer than 14 years ago, even the very best passports could only offer 130 visa-free destinations, a number that wouldn’t even get you into the top 70 today.
In 2006, the average number of visa-free destinations among today’s top 20 passports was a mere 126.45. Today, none of those passports are below 185.
Is it so inconceivable to imagine that a handful of wealthy, peaceful countries will soon have visa-free access to all 226 countries and territories?
Japan has added 62 destinations to its roster since 2006. That’s about five a year. It only has 36 countries to go, the preponderance of which are in Africa.
In terms of visa-waiver agreements, there was a great deal of low-hanging fruit available in the last decade, and as countries inch closer to 100%, they will no doubt find an increasing challenge in making marginal gains in mobility. There will be outlier holdouts that steadfastly resist bilateral travel freedom; North Korea, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia spring to mind. We may well see decades where the top 30-40 countries enjoy access to all but a handful of hermit kingdoms, always approaching zero but never quite reaching it, like an asymptote.
But if global mobility improvement continues apace, we’ll see a passport with worldwide visa-free travel in less than a decade.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.